When spurned players or coaches return to face their former teams, they often downplay it as "just another game". But Hurricanes head coach Paul Maurice strayed from that script when asked about tonight's match-up against the Maple Leafs, Maurice's first time squaring off against the team that fired him in May of 2008 (TSN, TSN HD tonight at 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt).
“The politically correct thing that most coaches would say is that it's just like any other game," Maurice told a morning radio show in Raleigh, North Carolina. "But it's absolutely not. It's absolutely personal. You get fired, you want to see that team lose every game for the next ten years.”
Maurice later told TSN that his intent was not to be venomous and that he was pretty sure he chuckled when said the comment, which seemed to be tongue-in-cheek. Nonetheless, the 41-year-old's jabs will add an extra layer of intrigue to the game when the puck drops tonight.
The Maple Leafs come into this test on a four-game slide, while Carolina has dropped its last three contests.
The Hurricanes, who are 2-0 against the Leafs this year, have won three straight and five of the last six encounters with Toronto. The Leafs have also been defeated in three straight and five of their last seven trips to Raleigh.
In addition to losing four in a row, Toronto has dropped five of six and eight of its last 10 contests.
The Leafs were in action Tuesday against visiting Nashville and the Predators earned the shutout win at Air Canada Centre. Steve Sullivan recorded his first point in nearly two years and Pekka Rinne stopped all 17 shots he faced to lift the Preds to the 2-0 decision.
Vesa Toskala allowed two goals on 23 shots for the Maple Leafs, who have scored just five goals during their four-game losing streak. Toronto enters tonight with a goalless streak of 79 minute, 19 seconds.
The Leafs are playing the first of two straight on the road tonight and will wrap the brief swing Friday in Atlanta. Toronto is 8-12-2 as the visiting club this year and has dropped four straight road tests.
All the losses during Carolina's current skid came on a three-game road trip. The Hurricanes have been outscored 10-2 over their last two games, as they lost both tests by a 5-1 score.
The most recent setback came Tuesday in Ottawa, as Dany Heatley and Antoine Vermette both recorded a goal and an assist in the 5-1 thrashing at Scotiabank Place.
Former Senator Joe Corvo had a power-play goal for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward yielded all five goals on 40 shots in defeat.
Carolina, which is 12-9-1 as the host this season, is back in Raleigh for just one game before beginning a four-game road trip Saturday in Buffalo.